'Nothing She Ever Did Was "Mainstream,'' She Was an Original'

On the morning of the fatal Cessna crash that left four people dead on Friday, the plane's pilot, Eliav Arbel, participated in "Women Going Far," an event held at the Tel Aviv port.

The program included an airshow piloted by three women. Arbel watched from the ground, handing out leaflets advertising her own flight services. And ironically, one of the planes flown in the show, a Cessna 172, was the fateful craft with which Arbel, 30, crashed a few hours later.

An atmosphere of silent mourning pervaded the home of Arbel's father following his daughter's deadly crash in a field near Moshav Batzrah in the Sharon region, as relatives and friends gathered.

Yossi Rivlin, the victim's uncle, recalled: "Maayan [Arbel's given name] was a very unique young woman. Nothing she did was 'mainstream.'

She was an original. She was a desert tour guide, a pilot, diver, and rode a heavy motorcycle. She was born at Saint Catherine's [Monastery] in the Sinai, where her father was a guide at the field school. After the Sinai was returned to Egypt, they moved to Har Gilo, and then to Rehovot."

Her parents divorced. When Arbel was 15, her mother Yonit was killed in a road accident. "She had a very difficult time - her relationship with her mother was very special, but she was a strong girl," her uncle reports. About four years ago, Arbel moved to Ramat Gan with her partner.

In recent years she changed her name from Maayan to Eliav, in memory of one of her mother's friends who was killed in the Yom Kippur war. Arbel worked as an operations coordinator at FNA (an aviation school) and piloted small planes as a freelancer.

Her family is convinced that a severe technical malfunction caused the crash. "She successfully handled a malfunction a few months ago, when a bird flew into the plane's engine, and made an emergency landing," Rivlin said.

"I don't believe this was a case of human error. The truth is, no one in the family was worried about her flying. Like her father says, we were far more worried about her driving a motorbike. She already had a commercial license, and hoped to fly bigger passenger planes with a large airline," he said.

Arbel leaves behind her father Gidi and two brothers, 32-year-old Nitai and 24-year-old Yonatan, as well as a sister, Shaked, 17.

The two brothers, Aviram Pasternak, 32, and Itai Pasternak, 25, who also died in the crash, were known to their friends as adventurous types.

Aviram had organized the flight as a surprise for his friend Menachem Zeharia of Netanya, inviting his brother along.

"They were very close, despite their age difference," said a family friend, Moshe Even Paz.

The brothers' parents had just returned from a trip to Tuscany that day and were napping when Aviram left for work that day, however Itai saw them later and told them of their plans.

They heard about the crash through the news. The two brothers leave behind their parents and their sister Tali.